Stephen Baxter will be looking to guide Crusaders to a second successive league title (Picture: Stephen Hamilton/PressEye.com)
Friday, 07 August 2015
The quest for the Gibson Cup gets underway once more on Saturday as the Danske Bank Premiership kicks off for what is the 125th season of Irish League football.
Defending champions, Crusaders, kick off their league campaign at home against Portadown.
The last outing between the two sides saw Portadown come away with a 1-0 victory, however, the Crues had previously inflicted the Ports' heaviest defeat of the campaign with a six-goal drubbing back in January.
The Crues have strengthened over the summer with the acquisitions of Michael Carvill, Jordan Forsythe, Andrew Mitchell and Cameron Stewart, while Portadown have only added Mark Carson to their squad, who has arrived from Loughgall. With both sides having league aspirations of their own it promises to be a great clash.
Coleraine host Glentoran at the Showgrounds with both sides wanting to improve on last season, Coleraine finished in 8th place while Glentoran finished 6th and added silverware to their trophy room as they won the Irish Cup.
The two sides will be looking towards their new signings to fire them up the table with both clubs having the arrivals of new forwards from Linfield.
Coleraine have signed Sammy Morrow who returns to the club for a second spell while the Glens have signed Conor McMenamin.
Survival will be the aim of both Dungannon Swifts and Carrick Rangers as the Country Tyrone side host the newboys at Stangmore Park.
The Swifts will be looking for more goals this term as they scored the least amount in the Danske Bank Premiership, with a return of 38, a return of one goal per game.
Carrick Rangers find themselves in the Premiership after winning the last seasons Championship One, along with both the Intermediate Cup and the Steel and Sons Cup. They have added experience to their side with six of their seven signings all arriving from fellow Danske Bank Premiership clubs.
Cliftonville kick off their season away to Glenavon, with all eyes keen to see how they will replace the prolific Joe Gormley, who made the move to Peterborough United during the off season.
Tommy Breslin's side have added young goalkeeper Peter Burke to their squad but are yet to replace Gormley.
Glenavon meanwhile, have enjoyed a busy summer as for the second year running they were involved in the UEFA Europa League. The last meeting between these two sides was a 5-0 victory for Glenavon as they won seven of their last eight games to secure a Europa League spot.
Linfield host Ballymena United at the new look Windsor Park. The last meeting between these two sides was a 2-1 victory for the Blues and Warren Feeney will be hoping his side can again take all three points.
United manager, Glenn Ferguson, however, will be hopeful that his side can tear away from their title as cup specialists and break into the top six. To make this task possible he has made four new signings with Alan Blayney, Nathan Hanley, Mark Magennis and William Faulkner all joining the Warden Street side.
Linfield have also recruited with Guy Bates, Mark Stafford and David Kee being their main signings. All three looked impressive in Europe as the Blues reached the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.
At Milltown Ballinamallard United will be looking to avoid the same outcome as last when they face Warrenpoint Town when they fell to a 7-0 defeat.
Town narrowly avoided relegation to Championship 1 after overcoming Bangor on penalties in the play-offs.
Both sides have added significantly to the squads with no less than 13 arrivals between the two clubs.
Warrenpoint have also held on to last season's top scorer, Daniel Hughes, with Danske Bank Premiership survival being the main aim once again.
Shane McCabe is one of seven new signings for the 'Mallards as they look to overcome the losses of Mark Stafford and David Kee who have both departed for Windsor Park.
Danske Bank Premiership - August 8 2015 (kick-off 3pm)
Coleraine v. Glentoran
Crusaders v. Portadown
Dungannon Swifts v. Carrick Rangers
Glenavon v. Cliftonville
Linfield v. Ballymena United
Warrenpoint Town v. Ballinamallard United